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Anticipation Running High in Titletown (09/01/2010)
By Dave DeLano

With the 2010 National Football League season just around the corner, Cheeseheads are buzzing about the Packers’ potential this year. Some national pundits are suggesting a Super Bowl run for the Pack. No one is predicting a down season. Reasons for optimism are the team’s youth and depth, the emergence of Aaron Rodgers as one of the NFL’s premier quarterbacks, the quality and depth of playmakers, the development of a potential superstar tight end (Jermichael Finlay), and a sound influx of freshly-arrived talent.

Preseason football is fun to watch and gives the young players a chance to display their talents. This year’s third-round draft pick, Morgan Burnett, has been plugged in from day one upon his arrival in camp to become the starting strong safety. Burnett shows great ball-hawking instincts and could be the steal of the draft. Second-round pick Mike Neal looks to be as strong as a horse and will provide rotational depth on the defensive line. The Packers’ first pick, Bryan Bulaga will back up the left tackle position and will no doubt get plenty of snaps as he has looked good thus far. Fifth-round pick Andrew Quarless has shown he has talent, but the Packers are extremely deep at his tight end position. The other draft picks have not shown much to date.

Training camp has also revealed a couple of pleasant surprises, one of them being undrafted free agent Sam Shields. Shields is a speed demon but because of concerns over his abilities to catch the football (a condition known in the trade as “brick hands”), Shields was converted from wide receiver to cornerback prior to his senior season at the University of Miami. His world-class speed and Kamikaze playing style make him an intriguing player even though he can’t catch a football. The Packers have had Shields playing the gunner position on special teams and he is indeed “special” in that capacity. In addition, Shields has shown some nice instincts and takes full advantage of his speed playing cornerback. The Packers may have found themselves an eventual replacement for our aging cornerbacks without expending a draft pick.

Frank Zombo is another undrafted rookie making an impact. Zombo is a great name for a professional football player and Frank Zombo appears to be headed for a nice career. Zombo was a defensive end at Central Michigan where he racked up impressive sack numbers. The Packers converted him to the outside linebacker position and his toughness and ability to provide a “speed rush” would seem to be exactly what the Packers are looking for to play opposite Clay Matthews III. Zombo just might be the Packers’ starting outside linebacker come opening day.

Winning the world championship of professional football takes a lot of talent and a lot of luck. The Green Bay Packers have had a lot of both looking back at their glorious history. The Packers have won 12 National Football League championships. Could this be the year for the 13th? We will soon find out as the season opens at Philadelphia September 12 when the Packers kick-off their 2010 season against the Eagles. 


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